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Cyber, crises, fake news… NATO and EU train (almost) simultaneously

(B2 – exclusive) The ambassadors of the 28 were summoned this morning at 10:30 a.m. for a special meeting… The AIFOS operation deployed in the Mediterranean against human trafficking (1) has just been the victim of cyber-attacks. And this is not the first time. The situation is tense. Since August, the European Union has been the target of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Intelligence specialists sent the message: these attacks would be attributed to Froterre, a country “ quasi-democratic”, “increasingly attentive to its potential global economic power and its military force”. Etc. This is the pitch (the theme) which is at the center of the exercise which brings together the 28 today.

An exercise which involves, as everyone will have recognized, Russia (alias Froterre, see box), a religious extremist movement such as Daesh (alias Nexsta, like Newborn Extremist State), and an anti-globalization movement AGG which accuses the European Union of militarizing the Mediterranean and controls several NGOs. Because in the coming days, the pace of crises will accelerate. For several days, cyberattack-type “incidents” hit the operation in the Mediterranean and its command centers. Social media took over, spreading “fake news”. Since then, oil traffic has been disrupted.

Two in one

This is the originality of this exercise. It takes place, for the first time, on both sides of Brussels, around the Schuman roundabout (EU side) and Boulevard Léopold (NATO side), in a “ simultaneous and coordinated ”, according to the official terminology with the annual NATO exercise “CMX17”. Hence the name PACE given to the European exercise, like Parallel And Coordinated Exercise.

The two organizations “inject” various incidents into each other's exercise, intended to test both the solidity of the decision-making process and the good cooperation between the two organizations. Everyone holds their meetings and responds to events, according to their own internal procedures, but they exchange information and interact.

On the EU side, it is not only the usual politico-military structures (EU General Staff, PSC ambassadors, EEAS planning services, the hybrid fusion cell) which are called upon to play their role. . It is also a question of testing the coordination system of the Member States (known as IPCR as Integrated Political Crisis Response) like the crisis response system of the European Commission, for the economic or civil aspect (the ARGUS rapid alert system and the civil protection mechanism) including the services responsible for communication (StratComm or spokespersons). A similar exercise is planned between NATO ambassadors at the beginning of October, expected to take place for around twenty hours.

To be continued…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: the Defense Ministers carried out a small simulation on the same theme during their informal meeting in Tallinn at the beginning of September. Read : In Tallinn, ministers play hybrid cyber warfare (V2)

An exercise turned against the Russian threat

The description of the State “Froterre” in the documents distributed by the Europeans leaves no doubt about the resemblance with Russia. FROTERRE is a “ quasi-democratic country increasingly alert to its potential global economic power and military strength ". He " therefore seeks an increased geopolitical role, but its economic interests and values ​​are opposed to those of the EU and the rest of the Western world ". The FROTERRE government has " highly advanced offensive cyber capabilities and controls hackers, hacktivists and national media ". These groups broadcast propaganda development tools for intelligence agencies and hack networks and databases in support of FROTERRE security objectives ". Fronterre is " frequently accused of carrying out hybrid/cyber-specific attacks to harass Western countries and weaken their economic and geopolitical influence ". But " most of these attacks are well below the threshold for hybrid/cyber warfare ". (NB. Which makes any high-level reaction difficult). The resemblance is pushed to the extreme, including in the political calendar. “ In order to increase its legitimacy vis-à-vis the international community, the president of FROTERRE declared that elections will take place in 2018. But there is only a limited opposition which, to a large extent, is controlled by the government. " Etc.

(1) Everyone will have recognized the anagram of Operation Sophia,

(2) Everything is not yet completely smooth between the two organizations. Thus the note of the NATO exercise was not distributed to all EU member states…Cypriot question obliges. Turkey still blocks information exchanges and institutional cooperation between the two organizations.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).